On Buying Local

I went to set up my new electric service today, and I have to say, I am not surprised that PG&E has financial problems, since the service is so awful. I mean, maybe I caught them at a bad time, but the woman in the office was…less than kind. I will not go so far as to say rude, because that would be a bit of a stretch, but she was certainly not pleased to see me. Apparently PG&E does not actually want new customers. Or maybe they just do not care, since they are fully aware that they are the only option up here.

Service in general seems to be something that a lot of local businesses struggle with. I was in a local business recently which was festooned with “buy local” manifestos, and I started thinking more deeply about the “buy local” issue. I know that I have talked with Haddock about this issue before, and my feelings on it have been evolving in recent times.

Essentially, at heart, I want to support local business by buying locally. I would like to keep money in my economy, and to keep out chain stores. However…I am not going to pay premium prices for poor service and subpar products. Sadly, a lot of the businesses which stridently demand that people “buy local” provide really awful service, and do not have the products that I want. I do not need to be told why I should buy local, because I already know why. I would, however, like to be served with respect and courtesy, as a valued customer.

The long and short of it is that a business which offers poor service will lose customers, local or not. I was thinking about this issue as I wandered Franklin Street, which is really suffering financially as a result of the construction. I was thinking that I should vow to buy something from a store on Franklin every day, and encourage others to do the same. But after two bouts of rude service, I began to rethink this thought. How much am I willing to pay to buy locally? How much are you willing to pay? And how much should we, as a society, pay?

Buy local, and buy independent, we are told. But demanding that your customers support your business while treating them poorly is not good business, local or not.